This residence is significant due to its association with Bob Santos, an important figure in the Filipino American community. The house’s occupancy history reveals the importance of the valley’s proximity to Seattle’s industrial districts, while also illustrating the contemporary racial integration and ethnic diversity in the Rainier Valley.
This single-family residence is located in the southern end of Rainier Valley. It was constructed in 1904, and the 1909 Polk Directory lists John A Morris, an assistant melter in Seattle’s US Assay Office, as the principal occupant. In 1912, John’s wife Eva Florency moved into the house and remained there after John’s death. From 1942 through 1949, James B. Cassingham also lived at the residence. Eva remained in the house through 1955. It was then occupied by her children Earl S. Morris and Irene E. Morris, as well as Earl’s wife, Esther I. Morris. Irene worked as a waitress, and Earl was an employee of Pacific Car and Foundry. Earl remained at the residence through 1969. In 1984, the house was renovated. In 1993, Robert (“Bob”) Santos and Sharon Tomiko purchased the house from Stanley J. and Julie R. Barrett.
Bob Santos was born in 1934 and raised in Seattle’s Chinatown. His father, Sammy Santos, was Filipino and his mother, Virginia Nicol, was Native American and Filipino. After graduating high school and serving in the U.S. Marines, he returned to Seattle in 1955 to work for Boeing. During the 1960s and 1970s, Bob became an activist for racial civil rights within both the Catholic Church, as well as the larger Seattle area. As Executive Director of the International District Improvement Association from 1972 to 1989, he served as a leader, organizer, and collaborator for social and economic interests within the International District.
Substantial residential and commercial development in South Seattle and the Rainier Valley occurred when a transportation corridor connecting the Rainier Valley to downtown and Seattle’s industrial district was constructed along Rainier Avenue during the late ninteenth century. Development in the valley was facilitated by logging during the 1880s, the operation of the Rainier Valley Electric Railway in the 1890s, and the Jackson and Dearborn Street reg-rades in the 1900s. Milling was the primary commercial industry during the last part of the nineteenth century although some agricultural activity existed. As residential development increased, Rainier Avenue gradually became the principal commercial corridor connecting the residential neighborhoods of South Seattle to downtown, the International District, and Seattle’s industrial districts. World War II brought additional building growth related to the wartime industry, as well as the influx of defense workers to nearby Boeing and the Duwamish shipyards.
While there was a significant influx of Chinese migrant workers into the US during the middle of the nineteenth century, immigration laws for the Chinese became more restrictive after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This, combined with the 1889 Alien Land Laws, thwarted the growth of Seattle’s Chinese population and restricted their residences to Chinatown. Despite this, Chinese American families grew and a second generation of Chinese Americans was born. By the 1930s, Chinese American families gradually began moving to the Beacon Hill area. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted in 1943, opening the way for immigration by the Chinese, who then began moving to South Seattle in large numbers. However, it was not until the passage of the Open Housing Ordinance by the Seattle City Council in 1968 that significant numbers of Asians, Filipinos, African Americans, and Hispanics were able to move to South Seattle. The occupancy of this house by the Santos family reflects the successful racial integration in Seattle’s neighborhoods after the 1960s and illustrates the diversity that predominates in South Seattle today.